How to Care for Oily Hair and Scalp
If you have oily hair, following the traditional guidelines of the Curly Girl / Curly Hair Method may leave your hair feeling limp and heavy and your scalp still dirty after cleansing. Oily hair tends to be - but not always - fine in texture and lower in density.
(The original method was coined as the Curly Girl Method but is more commonly known as the Curly Hair Method these days. It includes all types, textures, and densities.)
What Causes Oily Hair and/or Scalp?
There are a lot of reasons. This list covers the most common ones but if you are not sure what it could be or are concerned about the cause, it is always best to seek a medical opinion.
- Overwashing your hair
- Products that have a lot of chemical ingredients
- Seborrheic Dermatitis
- Forehead acne
Cleansing Tips for Oily Hair
The strict Curly Hair Method recommends using a co-wash or a conditioner to clean your hair. Co-washes are sometimes just a regular conditioner or a cleansing conditioner with really mild cleansing ingredients. They don't lather up and you do need to use a bit more scrubbing of the scalp to clean it.
You can still follow this recommendation if you wish to be strict with the Curly Hair Method, but there are a few things you should know about co-washing with an oily scalp. The positive aspect of co-washes is that they are super gentle and usually help reduce frizz and allow the hair to hold onto moisture easily. Co-washing is a great option to add in as an alternate with your regular shampoo to avoid drying out your scalp and hair if you wash frequently. For example, if you have a lifestyle or a job where you need/want to cleanse your hair daily then co-washing might be one thing you can blend into your routine, especially if you have combination hair and scalp (more below).
Some shampoos, when used too often, can be drying but this is dependant on the types of cleansers used and the amount of each in the product. If you hear the term "low poo" that means that shampoo that doesn't have harsh sulfates, but it is not as mild as a co-wash nor is it considered clarifying. There are lots of different levels of low poos that are available. Some will be super gentle with low lather and others will just foam right up and leave your hair really clean.
If you have oily hair, my best advice is to use a lathering low poo shampoo regularly, either exclusively or with a co-wash if you want to co-wash. The lather will work a bit quicker to break down the oils and thoroughly clean your scalp. You may also want to use a clarifying shampoo more often than the guidelines say. Many people recommend using clarifying shampoos every 6-8 weeks; I say use it when you want based on how your hair feels. I will pop a couple of clarifying recommendations at the end of my shampoo suggestions below.
Cleansing Tips for Combination Hair & Scalp
If you have combination hair (your scalp is oily but your ends are dry), you will have to be selective with your products and techniques. Here's a few tips:
- Keep the shampoo focused on your scalp. Let the rinse part of your routine move the lather through to the ends instead of massaging it into all of your hair.
- Keep the conditioner focused from the mid-length to the ends of your hair, avoiding your scalp.
- Consider using a dry shampoo between washes - I'll have recommendations below.
Shampoo Recommendations for Oily Hair
Here are some shampoos that work well for oily hair, plus a bit more about how they perform for your hair type.
- AG Balance Shampoo - lathers up a lot without using a lot of shampoo. Can be used twice, i.e. shampoo, rinse, repeat as needed. The fragrance is pretty mild and includes some nice botanical extracts. The amount of ACV is not high so it won't be too drying on your hair.
The Jack 59 shampoo bars are technically low poo. Since there is no water in them, the amount of cleansing leans more towards “squeaky clean”. This is another option for deeper cleaning if you need it. Plus you can be earth-friendly at the same time. Try the Vitality shampoo and Vitality conditioner bar for oily hair.
- Coil Infusion Shampoo from Ouidad - Ouidad marks this shampoo as clarifying on the label but the cleansers make it a low poo. This would be a nice lathering option to use as often as you like.
- Original Moxie Get Fresh Volumizing Shampoo - this is a low, low poo so it will have little to no lather. It may take a few weeks to get used to how this cleanser works, but it is so gentle it can be used daily.
If you don’t already have a clarifying shampoo here are a couple of ideas.
- My go to recommendation is Malibu C Hard Water Wellness or Un Do Goo. The reason is that these products remove product and hard water build up without being too drying. The main difference between these two is HWW has protein and UDG does not.
- Curl Keeper Treatment Shampoo - This is technically a clarifying shampoo with sodium c14-16 olefin sulfonate. As long as you don't find the shampoo drying though, you can use this as often as you want.
Conditioner Recommendations for Oily Hair
When it comes to conditioning oily hair, just remember to use a light formulation conditioner that has fewer oils and butters. No need to completely eliminate these ingredients from your routine, but they need to be a bit lower in the list of ingredients to avoid making oily hair worse.
Click here to read my past blog on conditioner. The main takeaway to remember is that conditioners are formulated to stay on your hair after rinsing. It is just a film but that is what causes the smoothing effect and helps your hair hold onto moisture/water. This is by design.
Here are a few light weight conditioner ideas that should work well for oily hair:
- TreLuxe Untie the Knot - this is marked as a leave-in conditioner but that means it is the ideal consistency to use as a regular, lightweight rinse-out conditioner.
- AG Boost Conditioner - isn't too fragranced if you are sensitive to scents.
- Amika 3D Volume & Thickening Conditioner - gives volume and has protein that will give that extra bit of strength to hold the definition.
- Curl Keeper Conditioner - This has very small proteins that can get into lower porosity hair. It is not heavy.
- Original Moxie Featherweight Conditioner - this one is completely oil free.
- Hair Dance Conditioning Spray - super light leave-in a spray with protein. If you find any conditioner at all weighs your hair down, this is a good option. Just do a spritz or two. I’d also recommend it at night on dry ends to give it a bit of extra conditioning. It’s okay to spray it into your hand so you can do a direct application too.
Dry Shampoo Recommendations for Oily Hair
If you don't want to or have the time to wash too often, we have a few superb dry shampoos that are perfect for oily hair. There's nothing wrong with using a dry shampoo! If the alternative is washing every day, we recommend trying one if you haven't already.
- Hair Dance Volumizing Dry Shampoo - this is really popular and is a powder that absorbs well for all colors of hair.
- Jack 59 Dry Shampoo - is currently only available for light to medium tones but we will carry more as they are released.
- Innersense Refresh Dry Shampoo - comes out as a foam and turns into a powder! It's got organic ingredients too.
- Boucleme's Foaming Dry Shampoo - has mint properties for extra freshness, and tapioca starch which naturally removes oils.
- Amika's Perk Up Dry Shampoo - this one is great for those of us not following the method strictly as it has a silicone.
- Ouidad Clean Sweep - this is a more traditional aerosol spray but also adds in moisture! This product is not Curly Hair Method approved as it has alcohol denat (denatured alcohol) but I don’t avoid this ingredient because it speeds up the drying time so your product doesn’t feel sticky.
Styling Recommendations for Oily Hair
With respect to stylers, my go to recommendation for oily hair would be a foam or a mousse. They provide hold without weight of a cream or a gel. I am not saying not to use a gel though - ultimately gels are the best at forming a protective cast that holds the shape of your hair. But I will keep my recommendations to the foams here and add that they are also perfect as a single styler. For oily hair they can also add a bit of dryness plus it helps your hair dry a bit faster. These stylers will give you the hold and volume needed.
Here are some suggestions:
- Original Moxie Pop Life - this is a creamy foam that has protein for extra hold. It's very concentrated so 1 or 2 pumps should be enough.
- AG Cloud Light Volumizing Mousse - super light and easy to use on wash and refresh days. If everything you have tried is too much this will likely be your new go-to styler.
- AG Mousse Gel - quite thick and is good for hold and definition. This will provide a harder hold than most other foams/mousses.
- Innersense I Create Lift Volumizing Foam - provides light hold and is a bit drier than others which can help extend your wash days.
- Curlsmith's Bouncy Strength Volume Foam - gives a good dose of protein to provide strength and long-lasting hold.
- Inahsi Naturals Define and Shine Foam - this is fragrance free! Plus it has UVB protection and protein.
- Original Moxie Sweet Poof Volumizing Spray - this is a volumizing alternative to hair spray.
Can you Use Oils on Oily Hair?
Contrary to what you might think about oils.... it is possible for this type of hair to use them! The caveat is that the oil needs to stay on your scalp. A regular scalp massage can help to remove build up and help oxygen and blood flow. Be careful not to use your fingernails, just the pads of your fingers, and about 10 drops of oil in total for your whole scalp.
It's also not a bad idea to do this step only prior to washing if you have oily hair or scalp, just in case.
- A good product to consider is Original Moxie Scalp Therapy. It has menthol so if you are sensitive to tingling etc. be aware of that. This blend also has anti-bacterial/fungal properties.
- If you are sensitive to mint/menthol, then consider this Beauty Oil from Hair Dance as it can be used on your scalp or your body and is very light.
If you have oily hair, you don't need to be stuck washing every single day unless you want to. As you can see, we have a lot of products that will allow you to have a healthy scalp and hair while getting the most of your waves and curls.